Full-time students rarely earn high income, and they have significant expenses related to school, such as books, room and board and transportation. To reduce the burden of attending school, the Internal Revenue Service allows students to claim certain deductions against their taxable income. However, at the time of publication, fuel costs are not a deductible expense.
Education Credits and Deductions
As a college student, you can claim certain higher education expenses as a credit or a deduction. While a deduction reduces your taxable income before tax is calculated, a credit directly reduces the income tax you owe. If you paid qualifying expenses during the year, you may be able to claim a Lifetime Learning Credit of up to $2,000, an American Opportunity Credit of up to $2,500 or a tuition and fees deduction of up to $4,000.
For the purpose of the American Opportunity Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit and tuition and fees deduction, qualifying higher education expenses include tuition and related expenses the student must pay as a condition of enrollment, including books and other supplies. Insurance, medical expenses, personal expenses, room and board and transportation don't count as qualifying expenses regardless of which credit or deduction you claim. Thus, you cannot claim fuel costs paid to attend school.
Although you can't claim education-related fuel costs on your taxes, fuel costs may be deductible in other situations. For example, you may be able to deduct the cost of fuel used to deliver charitable donations or perform charity work. If you own a business or use your car while on the clock for an employer, you may also be able to deduct the cost of fuel used during business-related outings. Finally, if you qualify for the medical and dental expenses deduction, you can deduct the cost of fuel used to drive to and from doctor's appointments and medical treatments.
Although you may meet the requirements for both education credits and the tuition and fees deduction, you can claim only one credit or the deduction for the higher education expenses paid in a given year. If you qualify to deduct fuel costs for medical or charitable purposes, claim this deduction on Schedule A of Form 1040. If you are deducting fuel costs as a business expense, claim the deduction on Schedule C of Form 1040. If you are deducting business-related fuel costs as an employee, attach Form 2106 to your tax return.
Amanda McMullen is a freelancer who has been writing professionally since 2010. She holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and statistics and a second bachelor's degree in integrated mathematics education.